Van de Graaff Generator

©2012 - v 4/15
615-3130 (10-085), 615-3210 (10-086),
615-3145 (10-285), 615-3146 (10-286)
Van de Graaff Generator
Instructions by: Dr. Zafar A. Ismail, Professor of Physics, Daemen College, Amherst, N.Y.
People with cardiac pacemakers or other such electronic medical implants or devices should
never operate the generator or
come in contact with it. Discharge
of static electricity could cause
the electronic device to be damaged or to malfunction.
Model Numbers
615-3130 - 400KV Van de
Graaff, 110 volt, negative
615-3210 - 400KV Van de
Graaff, 220 volt, negative
615-3132 - 400KV Van de
Graaff, 110 volt, positive
collector. Use these instructions
with the positive and negative
charge descriptions reversed.
(Can make into 500 KV with
purchase of 440 mm collector
P/N 058110)
615-3145 - 500KV Van de
Graaff, 220 volt, negative
615-3146 - 500KV Van de
Graaff, 220 volt, negative
The Van de Graaff Generator
deposits a very large amount of
negative electrical charge on the
metal dome (globe). This massive volume of negative electrical
charge produces a spectacular
display of "lightning" and other
When two insulators are
rubbed together, one loses elec-
trons to the other and becomes
electrically positive by acquiring
positive electrical charges. The
other insulator, having gained excess electrons (negative electrical
charges) becomes electrically negative. These charges are static because they do not move on their
own. When you walk on a carpet
in a dry room with dry feet you
deposit a large amount of electrical charge on your body; the impact is felt when you touch a door
knob. Electrical charges can also
be induced on a neighboring in-
sulator or conductor by a process
known as induction. In the case of
a flat insulator, the opposite side
acquires opposite electrical charge
by induction.
The 615-3130 generator uses
a nylon pulley at the lower end of
the machine, attached to an electric motor. A rubber belt passes
over the pulley. As the pulley
turns, rubbing occurs; the pulley
acquires positive charges while
the inside surface of the rubber
belt (near the plastic pulley) acquires an equal amount of nega-
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]
©2012 - v 4/15
Schematic shows negative charges
carried upward from pulley to
collector sphere (615-3130).
tive charge. The outside surface of
the rubber belt acquires an equal
amount of positive charge by induction. An electrode, in the form
of a comb or brush, is provided to
drain away these positive charges
from the outside surface of the
rubber belt to the "ground."
A similar comb (electrode) is
provided at the upper end where
it will provide a path for negative
charges to be taken to the collector dome. The plastic pulley
retains the positive charges that it
Negative charges stay on the
inside surface of the belt and
travel upwards as the belt moves
up. At the top, it runs over a
PVC pulley which picks up these
negative charges and retains them.
Free electrons from the PVC pulley flow on the electron-deficient
belt and are carried down to the
plastic pulley. As the belt keeps
running, more charges are deposited on both pulleys, resulting in
heavy buildup of charges on each.
Soon this buildup reaches ionization intensity in the vicinity of the
two comb assemblies and a large
Combs reach
ionization intensity
Dome reaches
ionization intensity
Note: Depending on setup (615-3130 or 615-3132), the
collector will be either negative or positive.
615-3132 is the positive version of 615-3130.
number of positive and negative charges are generated. The
negative charges are transferred
to the collector dome by the upper comb and the positive charges
are drained to the ground by the
lower comb. The belt plays an important role in transporting positive charges from upper to lower
comb and negative charges (on
other half of the belt) from lower
to upper comb.
Once on the metallic collector
dome, the positive charges spread
out due to electrostatic repulsion
and become uniformly distributed
because of the dome's spherical
shape. The buildup of negative
charge on the dome continues until ionization intensity is reached.
This is the equilibrium state
and limits the quantity of charge
that the generator can place on its
dome. It is measured in volts. Once this limit is reached
(400,000 potential for 6153130 /615-3210), the air
between dome and lower housing gets ionized and a creates a
discharge with a spark. The discharge causes the potential to fall
below the ionization intensity but
is brought up to the limit again
in seconds, and another similar
discharge occurs. The process
continues as long as the generator
is running.
Van de Graaff
These and other parts are
available from Science First®.
Please call for prices.
Upper comb assembly
North America cord set
Motor, 120 volt
Upper pulley
Lower pulley
Upper comb
Collector, 330mm
(400 KV)
Motor, 220 volt
European cord set
Collector, 440mm
(500 KV)
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]
©2012 - v 4/15
(1) Hair Raising:
Approaching a running generator can be a hair raising experience. This is because the charges
are transferred to your body and
- specifically - to the hair. Due to
electrostatic repulsion between
similar charges, every hair tends to
get as far away from every other
hair as possible. This “raises” hair
and can be felt on head, arms and
all over the body.
For best results you need two
people and a plastic footstool.
Stand on the footstool and place
one hand palm down on the globe
of the Van de Graaff before your
helper turns on the generator.
Keep your hand on the globe, with
your other hand at your side taking
care not to touch anything else, the
entire time the machine is running.
Shake your hair lightly to loosen
the strands; wait 1 - 2 minutes.
You should now feel each individual strand start to lift. Have
your helper angle a mirror (taking
care not to get too close to you!)
so you can see the results. Fine,
light, long hair works best. Make
sure you do not remove your hand
from the globe, touch anyone
or step down from the footstool
while the machine is running. If
you do, you will feel a mild shock.
This is because, by doing so, you
have completed the electrical connection and grounded yourself.
(The footstool serves as an insulator.) The static electricity, instead
of remaining on your body, passes
to earth. You feel the results.
This experiment works best on
days when humidity is low. Water
vapor drains static charge. If you
do demonstrate on high-humidity
days, dry the inside of column and
globe with a hair dryer immediately before experimenting.
To raise hair, stand on footstool or
other plastic (nonconducting) platform
to insulate yourself.
(2) Electric Wind:
Charge distribution on the collector dome is isotropic because
the dome is predominantly spherical in shape. The distribution will
not be isotropic for irregularly or
asymmetrically shaped objects.
This is because narrower parts
always carry much greater concentration of charges than broader
parts. The effect is maximum for
pointed objects like thin rods or
large needles.
Try attaching a conductor in
the form of a sturdy, light, thin
metallic rod six to eight inches
long (for instance, a darning needle) on the body of the collector
dome, radially outwards. Use tape
or clay to attach. The concentration of charges at the tip of the
needle will be so intense that it
will ionize air in its neighborhood.
Positive ions will rush towards the
collector dome and neutralize their
charges. Negative ions, however,
move away (due to electrostatic
repulsion) from the generator and
do not get neutralized. As the
generator is continuously running,
it keeps supplying more and more
negative ions at a fast speed. The
ions running away form a wind
called “electric wind” which
blows away (radially outward)
from the generator. By attaching
the conductor or needle, you have
created an electric wind.
Generate Statics.
The wind is strong enough for
its effects to be experienced as far
away as 10 feet from the generator. It may not deflect a flame that
far away but will certainly impart
statics to your clothing which
would cling to your body; or to
a paper that would cling to your
hand or to the wall.
Turn a vane.
Place a vane, such as a child’s
pinwheel, in front of the conductor. It will turn in the direction of
the wind. See for yourself what
the wind direction is and see if
you can form some idea of how
strong the wind is. Try a vane
that is slightly stiff and requires a
stronger wind to turn it.
Spin a spinner.
Make a small spinner using
aluminum foil 1" across with 4 - 6
blades. Use a sharp pin to act as
axis for spinner and mount the pin
on a wooden or plastic stick. Try
placing 2 beads on each side to localize the spinner. When brought
near the conductor, the electric
wind will spin it.
Deflect a Flame.
Bring a lighted candle near the
conductor. The flame is deflected
away from the generator in the
same manner as an air draft.
Rotate the collector dome.
Show how an actual (electric)
wind can be created by ionized air
molecules running away from the
pointed conductor.
The ionized molecules move
away from the sharp or rounded
end of the conductor in great
numbers and at great speeds.
This, according to Bernoulli's
Principle, produces a low-pres-
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]
©2012 - v 4/15
sure region in front of the tip of
the conductor. The rear end of the
conductor (attached to the dome)
remains at normal pressure. This
sets up a pressure difference near
the conductor. By using it, you
can rotate the dome.
Attach two identical sharp or
rounded conductors tangentially
(not radially) to the dome along
the seam on opposite sides and
in opposite directions. Conductors can be attached with clay or
tape. Observe how pressure differences near these conductors
exert torques on the dome which
begin to rotate slowly but steadily.
The dome rotates as long as the
generator is running. The mass of
the dome is substantial. The fact,
therefore, that the dome will rotate solely due to the electric wind
that is generated is a testimony to
the strength of that electric wind.
Carry the Electric Wind.
In this experiment you bring
the wind to the candle instead of
bringing the candle to the generator to observe its effect on the
flame. Prepare a large darning
needle by securely attaching a
well-insulated copper wire in the
needle’s eye. Attach the other end
of the wire to the collector dome
with transparent tape. Carry the
needle as far as the wire will allow you to carry it. Place it near a
candle and watch the electric wind
(emanating from the needle’s tip)
deflect the flame or turn a vane or
rotate a spinner.
(3) Lightning:
Lightning, an awesome natural phenomenon, is an electrical
discharge between clouds and
the ground. Create it in miniature
with a Van de Graaff Generator
due to the buildup of negative
electrical charges on the dome.
Bring a rounded object (metallic, for best results, such as
a mixing bowl or juice can or
615-31156 Discharge Wand
which matches the height of the
615-3130 Van de Graaff) near
the dome. You may wish to wear
a glove or use a dry towel to hold
the objects as you approach the
dome to minimize the likelihood
of receiving a shock. The discharge that occurs between rounded object and collector dome is
accompanied by a crackling sound
and can be made brighter and
more frequent by bringing the
rounded object closer (from 2" to
1/2" away.) If you withdraw the
rounded object, the discharges become feeble and less frequent and
may be seen only in a darkened
If the dome has accumulated
full charge and you do not induce
lightning, a discharge will automatically occur between dome
and base. You should hear intermittent crackling sounds and see
feeble sparks in darkness.
With larger generators such as
the 615-3145, the lightning effect
is greatly enhanced.
(4) St. Elmo’s Fire:
end of the straw, hold the straw by
the other end and press it lightly
against the dome. (The object,
of course, is to resist a shock as
your hand approaches the dome.)
A small but significant glow or
“fire” appears at the tip of the
St. Elmo’s Fire can also be created by attaching a 3' long electrical wire (not solid, but stranded)
to the eye of a sewing needle. As
the strands are passed across the
eye, fold and twist them with pliers to join the needle solidly to
the wire’s end. Connect the other
end of this wire to the ground connector on the base of your Van de
Graaff. (This procedure will not
work if your receptacle has only
two flat holes.) Now tie the needle
perpendicularly to one end of a
drinking straw using cord or tape.
Hold the far end of the straw and
bring the needle close to the dome
to watch the “fire” glow.
With this method, you can
study the effect of distance on the
glow. The glow will be stronger in
the vicinity of the dome. As distance increases, the glow dims.
Determine the “firing distance”
- the distance over which the glow
is visible.
There are three types of electrical discharges from clouds to
the earth.
Point Discharge.
No visible light or sound.
These are the bulk of discharge
between clouds and ground.
Corona Discharge.
It is accompanied by visible
light but no audible sound. This is
known as St. Elmo’s Fire.
Lightning Discharge.
This is accompanied by blinding light and deafening sound.
You can create St. Elmo’s using a drinking straw or small plastic strip. Tape the needle to one
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]
©2012 - v 4/15
(5) Lighting:
You can light a variety of light
emitting devices with your Van de
Graaff - incandescent (filament)
light bulbs, fluorescent tubes or
lamps, gas filled tubes, old radio
tubes, even tiny neon tubes. For
best results, do these experiments
in a darkened room or at night.
Bring your bulb toward the
dome as the generator is operating. You may wish to make a
nonconducting holder for the light
bulb to avoid receiving a shock
as you approach the dome. The
outside glass surface nearest the
dome acquires positive charge by
induction. The charge builds up
on the glass surface to discharge
intensity. As discharge occurs,
positive charges rush through the
entire bulb, lighting it up for the
duration of the discharge.
Experiment with distances
between bulb and dome. The bulb
will light even when 12' away
from the dome. Here, discharges
will be stronger but the intervals
between them will be longer. The
light bulb will also glow more
brightly. When you bring the bulb
nearer, the discharges are more
frequent but the light is dimmer.
The bulb touches the dome, the
light may be continuous (or flickering) but the intensity is low.
Household (incandescent)
bulbs will glow with purple light.
Other gas-filled tubes will glow
with the characteristic lights of the
respective gases.
These experiments require a few simple
devices made from common materials.
(1) Test Probe
This can be made out of a
spherical metal object, about 1"
in diameter, threaded, such as for
a cabinet. Drill a hole in a ruler
near one end for a screw. Take
a piece of well-insulated copper
connecting wire, 2-3' long, bare
one end and fold it around the
screw loosely. Fix the knob on the
ruler with the wire attached to the
probe in between two washers,
using a solderless crimp terminal.
Bare the other end of the wire and
ground it by connecting it to the
ground connection on the base.
Eye of needle
copper wire
Washers, 2
Movable Electrode
Copper wire
Test Probe
(2) Neon Bulb Probe
Mount a small neon bulb (i.e.
Ne2) on a plastic ruler. Turn the
two lead wires at right angles,
with one protruding from the ruler
by 1". Solder an insulated copper
wire to the other end and ground
it by connecting it to the ground
connection on the generator base.
by tape
Lead wire
soldered to
Fluorescent bulb
approaching collector
dome glows more brightly
(3) Movable Electrode
Take a piece of well-insulated
stranded copper connecting wire
about 3' long. Bare a length 1" on
each side. Pass the strands at one
end through the eye of a darning
needle about 6" long. Twist the
wire using a pair of nose pliers
until the needle is solidly connected to the wire. Solder the copper
parts (optional). Attach the needle
to a plastic rod such as a drinking
straw by passing the needle right
through the straw near one end.
Or, use a 6" plastic or wooden ruler, attaching the needle with cord
or tape. Do not ground this wire.
(4) Cylindrical Box
Neon bulb
Plastic ruler
Neon Bulb Probe
Roll a piece of clear, strong
plastic sheet into a cylinder or
tube about 6" tall and attach 2
metal caps (such as lids of mar
or peanut butter jars) to the ends.
Glue one cap to the tube but do
not glue the other.
Use this box to carry foam
pieces painted with conductive
paint. Connect the upper and lower electrodes to the generator.
Cylindrical Box
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]
©2012 - v 4/15
1. Effective spark
distance of the generator
For best results, do in a dark room.
When the grounded spherical test probe is brought near the
dome, lightning discharges occur, accompanied by a crackling
sound. You can enhance the effect
by bringing the probe close to
the dome. As it is moved farther
away, the intensity of light and
sound will diminish. To find the
maximum effective distance at
which visible light and audible
sound occurs, move the probe
back systematically until lightning
can just barely be noticed. This
is the effective spark distance of
the generator. Repeat in different
directions. -Expect equal effective
distances on all sides. Look for
any deviations.
2. Electric field intensity
around the collector dome.
The grounded neon bulb draws
energy from an electrostatic field
such as the field around the collector dome. If this energy is sufficient to excite the bulb, the bulb
will flow.
Bring the bulb probe close
to the dome (without touching it
with the exposed terminal of the
probe) and find the location where
it just barely lights up. Study the
extent of the field by moving the
bulb in all directions. You should
expect the field to be symmetrical
but you might wish to look for
abnormalities or defects where the
intensity diminishes.
3. Jumping balls in a box.
Cut small foam circles from
foam packing material and cover
them with electrically conductive
material such as soot or graphite
(from soft pencils). Or rub them
against carbon paper.
Place conductive balls in the
cylindrical box (described earlier). Connect the upper and lower
electrodes (caps) of the box to the
DOME and GROUND respectively, using well-insulated copper
connecting wires. The two caps
will become electrically charged.
At first the balls will be on
the lower cap. Here they become
charged positively and are repelled away toward the upper cap.
The upper cap becomes negatively charged and attracts the balls.
The balls continue to move upward until they hit the upper cap.
On impact, their positive charge
is neutralized and they become
negatively charged instead.
The balls now fall down to the
lower cap where they once again
acquire a positive charge. The up
and down motion continues as
long as the generator is running.
4. Miniature aurora borealis
You Need: Pyrex flask
Fill a pyrex flask 1/3 full with
water and heat until the water
boils. When the flask is filled
with steam, remove from your
heater or burner and immediately
cork. Allow to cool. As the steam
settles and changes to water, a
partial vacuum is created. It will
be saturated with fine water vapor but there will be no air inside
the flask. Do not handle the flask
directly, even with gloves or plastic as you will not be protected
against a buildup of charge. Use a
tongs to bring the flask in contact
with the dome. A greenish-pink
glow should develop inside. This
is a replica aurora borealis.
5. Electrostatic repulsion
Use metal streamers such as
Christmas tinsel or graphite-coated pith balls* placed in a bundle
with one end tied together. Attach
the tied end to the dome with
tape and start your generator. All
strands will be charged negatively
and will stand erect, moving as far
away from one another as possible. The effect is similar to HAIR
RAISING and is a direct result of
electrostatic repulsion.
You get the same effect if you
use long, thin strands of paper
coated with graphite from a soft
lead pencil. Tape to the dome;
start the generator; watch the
strips repel each other.
6. Electrostatic spray
You Need: food coloring, spray atomizer
The electrostatic field of the
generator can be used to direct the
fine mist of paint as it comes out
of a sprayer nozzle. The particles
in the mist are charged electrically which causes them to remain
within the electrostatic field. This
reduces the loss of paint from
random scatter. The use of this
technique in commercial spray
painting requires only half the
paint otherwise needed.
To test this feature of the
electrostatic field, use a perfume
atomizer. Fill an empty atomizer
bottle with water colored with
food coloring. Spray the colored
water from the atomizer in the
vicinity of the collector dome,
tangentially across (not radially
toward) the dome.
Notice how the spray gets
trapped in the electrostatic field
and bends toward the collector
dome. The spray is localized and
there is little waste.
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]
©2012 - v 4/15
Safety, Operation
and Maintenance:
This generator is safe when used
properly. As with all electrical
appliances, follow these general
safety rules.
1. Plug the generator into a
grounded (3-prong) 110 volt 60
Hz outlet only. (615-3210/ 6153146 uses 220 v 50/60 Hz.)
2. Do not operate in a wet or
damp location or outdoors (to
avoid shock).
3. Check for loose, worn or frayed
wires. Replace any defective
parts. (See parts list).
4. Since discharge of electricity
can damage electronic devices,
keep away from appliances
such as televisions, computers,
stereos, microwave ovens, and
cell phones.
5. The shock caused by touching
the generator directly is not
harmful and is similar to the
shock received when walking
across a carpet and touching
a metallic object. It may feel
uncomfortable however and
should therefore be avoided.
6. Adult supervision required.
Getting the Right Output:
Output is determined by the
number of popping sounds you
can hear in a timed interval or by
estimating the length of spark.
The 615-3130 and 615-3210
should pop once every three seconds.
The size of the globe determines voltage. The voltage determines the spark length. The
400,000 volt generator should
produce a spark length up to 12"
(6" is typical).
The shape of the globe needs
to be smooth and round. Any
burrs or sharp points will cause
loss of charge. Dents will not materially affect performance as long
as dents are smooth and shallow
with no rough edges.
Best results are obtained in
low humidity. High humidity
causes charges to dissipate, lowering the electrostatic field, as
water vapor in the air drains your
charge. High humidity also causes
gradual deterioration of the belt.
We recommend that you operate your generator at humidity levels of 75% or less. Your
machine will run, however, at
humidity levels up to 90%. At humidities in excess of 90%, the life
of the belt will be shortened drastically even though the machine
may function normally. The belt
may show signs of breakdown after 20 operating hours.
Your belt contains a special
ozone retarding formula which
should give hundreds of hours of
operating use in low humidity.
The tension of the belt, however,
is crucial. Belt tension is high
when it leaves our factory but
may loosen with use. If your belt
is too tight when you first receive
your machine, you may loosen it
by stretching TWICE to twice its
normal length for several seconds,
then releasing. Do not stretch
further than the width of your outstretched arms.
a. Unsatisfactory Performance:
Low Current Yield
If your generator produces
weaker than normal current, it
will result in weak lightning discharges at shorter than normal distances. This is caused primarily by
a damp or dirty belt. Wash the belt
with alcohol and then rinse thoroughly. Check, also, for too much
clearance between belt and upper
and lower combs. Combs can be
adjusted manually by bending
them toward the belt for better
contact and should be within 1/8"
(3 mm) of the belt, but not touching it. If your comb is too short,
order replacements from us.
Another common cause of
initial poor performance is high
humidity. Dry the inside of the
column and globe with a hair
dryer before using. This removes
humidity inside the machine. You
may also run the generator for
several minutes before raising
hair. This creates enough heat to
eliminate effects of humidity.
b. Unsatisfactory Performance:
Low Voltage Yield
If your generator produces a
weaker than normal electrostatic
field, it will result in less intense
discharges. You may also see localized tiny flashes on the collector dome. This is due to a buildup
of dust or lint on the collector
dome itself. Such buildup should
be cleaned with a damp cloth. The
housing that covers the motor and
plastic pulley should be cleaned
as well.
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]
©2012 - v 4/15
To store for a long time, remove the belt to relax its tension
so it will not lose its original
strength. Store in a dry place.
Bearings: No maintenance is
required for upper pulleys with
ball bearings. For pulleys with
solid bearings, apply a drop of
lubricating oil once a year to
upper pulley bearings.
Belt: After every 50 operating
hours, apply soap and scrub
to remove any deposits of
conducting material that may
accumulate on the belt. Rinse
thoroughly to remove soap.
Pulleys: Clean upper and lower
pulleys with a soft cloth. Clean
both pulleys occasionally with
alcohol, especially if you are
having operating problems.
Van de Graaff
These accessories may be
purchased from most science
education distributors or from the
manufacturer Science First®.
615-3135 Discharge Wand
Discharge your machine at a
comfortable distance. Draw long
arcs during experimentation. Contains 7" diameter aluminum globe
mounted on PVC column and attached to a cast tripod base. Stand
discharge wand next to Van de
Graaff and watch the sparks fly.
Includes ground terminal which
can be clipped to ground terminal
to terminal on base of 615-3130.
615-3150 Small Discharge Wand
Hand held, for discharging a
de Graaff generator.
Pith Balls - for experiments with
Van de Graaff generators.
615-3045 - Pack of 12. Balsa
wood, with hole.
615-3050 - Pith balls with
attached silk thread. Pack 6
615-3055 - Conductive, graphitecoated with thread, Pack 6.
615-3190 Wimhurst Machine
This classic device generates
static electric charges and discharges, producing a higher current, with lower voltage, than the
Van de Graaff generator. It consists of two high resistance plastic
discs with equally spaced metal
sections. The discs rotate in opposite directions with a hand crank.
You can collect induced charge
with the brushes and adjust the
electrodes and Leyden jar capacitors for higher potential.
615-3116 Mylar Foil - 6 strands
For experiments in electrostatic repulsion. Tape to the dome of a
Van de Graaff generator.
615-3125 Footswitch
Start and stop your machine
with a press of your foot. No danger of shocks since you don't get
too close; a useful accessory for
hair-raising. For 110 volt operation only.
615-3120 Footstool
The best way to perform the
hair-raising experiment is to stand
on our plastic footstool and place
your hand on the globe before
starting the Van de Graaff. Because you're insulated from the
ground, your hair will start to rise
as each strand develops a negative
615-3155 Volta's Hailstorm
When placed near a Van de
Graaff Generator, the balls inside
the Volta's Hailstorm begin to
bounce up and down. The device
consists of a transparent cage
mounted on sturdy base, ball terminal to attract electric charge,
many tiny polystyrene balls, and
615-3165 Lightning Leaper™
This insulating plate with two
binding clips connects to a Van de
Graaff generator. On the plate's
surface, an incomplete metallic path with eight small gaps is
drawn. The discharge from the
Van de Graaff follows the zig zag
in the path - watch as the electricity leaps over each gap.
615-3172 Ball and Snake
When placed near a Van
de Graaff generator, the mylar
"snake" and the conductive ball
behave in very different fashions.
615-3160 Static Spinner
When placed on the dome of
a Van de Graaff Generator, this
spinner rotates rapidly from the
electric wind that is generated. It
features a sensitive cone bearing,
sturdy base and instructions with
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]
©2012 - v 4/15
615-3130, 615-3210
The Large Van de Graaff
comes pre-assembled and tested.
To set up for use, install the upper
comb and oblate.
Place comb in notch so that
comb points toward pulley, but
not touching the belt.
Place the oblate on top, resting
it on the ring.
Plug generator into a grounded
110 v 60 cycle AC outlet (For 220
50/60 AC, European model, order
Model 615-3210.)
Turn on the switch. Pilot light
will glow and generator will run.
Improvements include:
Output of 10 microamperes. Machine
runs hotter and faster, sparks
almost instantly.
On-off switch on base. With ground
terminal for easy attachment of
discharge wand such as 615-3115
Discharge Wand.
Foolproof upper brush assembly.
Clips into place, never needs
alignment or adjustment.
Transparent shock-resistant butyrate
column. Add visual interest to
your demonstrations.
Calculation of Van de Graaff output
on Page 11.
Stand on plastic
stool to raise hair.
Brush clamps onto
notches here, with
screened comb facing pulley
Diagram 1
Upper brush
Diagram 2
How to Raise Hair
You Need Two People and a
Plastic Footstool
1. Insulate yourself before the
generator is turned on.
Stand on plastic footstool such
as one from Rubbermaid®
(Our model 615-3120).
The electricity will complete
its circuit through you to the
ground if you are not insulated.
You will receive a shock and
your generator will not work.
2. Place your hand on the globe
before the generator is turned
• Have a helper plug in the
generator. Keep your hand
steady as any loss of contact
with globe will cause you to
receive a shock.
• To prevent shocks, we have
deliberately not provided an
On/Off switch, as any contact
with the housing may result in
a mild shock.
• We recommend a foot switch
plugged into generator
cord. Have your helper turn
generator on and off with
footswitch. Remove your
hand only when the generator
is turned off. Charge will
dissipate through your foot
when you step off the stool.
3. Works best in low humidity.
Water vapor in the air drains
off electric charge. Use a hair
dryer to heat the inside of the
insulating column and housing
to remove humidity.
Upper brush points
toward pulley
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]
©2012 - v 4/15
Current Capacity of a Van de
Graaff Generator
The following calculations developed by
founder F. B. Lee refer to our 615-3130
400,000 volt Generator. The method can
be used for any Van de Graaff.
Basic Equations:
Capacitance in micro faraday
= .0885 K A = C
K = 1.000 for a vacuum, almost the same for air
A = Area in cm2
T = dielectric thickness.
Current flow through a capacitor =
I = C de or I = E dC
C = capacitance in farads,
E = potential in volts;
I = current in amperes.
For air, maximum voltage difference
is 30,000 volts/cm.
E thus is 30,000
I = .0885 K d A E x 10 -12 amp
T dθ
since E is 30,000 volts
I = (.0885) (30,000) 10 -12 dA
For 1 microamp:
dA = 10-6 = 339 cm2 or 52.5 sq in/sec
For motor speed:
3000 RPM (50 rev/sec)
Pulley diameter 1.5"
Belt width 2"
I = (50) (1.5 π) (2) = 9.0 microamps
Pulley curvature affects this result. It
is less at small diameters because 30,000
volt/cm is only for flat surfaces.
Between 25 cm spheres = 29,400
Between 10 cm
= 28,500
Between 5 cm = 28,200
Between sharp point
= 11,500
Pulley at top also generates a theoretical 9 microamps.
Probable cause of short fall from 18
(1) Part of 30,000 volt/cm is voltage
difference between sides of bolt;
(2) Curvature of pulley;
(3) Nearby points or edges
What To Do If Your
Generator Does
Not Work
1. Check loose, worn, frayed wires.
Replace defective parts.
2. Check humidity. See if you can
dry out the inside your generator
with a hairdryer or operate on lowhumidity days.
3. Loosen the belt. Take it out and
stretch it twice to about double its
length. Do not overstretch. Belts
may be brittle and break.
• If the belt has been exposed to
cold weather, you can thaw it out
in hot water.
4. Remove lint from belt,
housing and globe. Wash belt
in alcohol and water. Rinse and
dry thoroughly. Lint drains your
output. (For globe and housing,
you may use a dishwasher.)
5. Wipe upper pulley with alcohol.
Remove upper pulley, wipe all
surfaces and replace. Belts vary in
composition and sometimes leave
a film or residue on the pulley
which drains charge. Lower pulley
is teflon™ and is not affected.
6. Adjust brushes.
There may be too much clearance
between belt and wire combs.
Adjust combs by bending until
they come within 1/8" (3 mm) of
the belt but do not touch the belt.
If you have cut your brush too
much, order a replacement.
7. Allow warm-up period. Let your
generator run a few minutes before
experiment. This often offsets high
humidity. You can dry the inside
of the column with a hair dryer
before experimenting.
8. Maintain regularly. Wash belt
after 50 operating hours with
alcohol, rinsing thoroughly. To
clean upper pulleys, use rough
cloth, sand paper, scotchbrite or
steel wool to wipe off any deposits
caused by wear. Clean the lower
pulley with a clean cloth.
People with cardiac
pacemakers or other such
electronic medical implants
or devices should never
operate the generator or
come in contact with it.
Discharge of static electricity
could cause the electronic
device to be damaged or to
Teaching with Van de Graaffs
Concepts: Frictional charge
generation. Electrostatic
repulsion (& attraction.)
Charging, discharging.
Discharge through sparks.
Plasma. Lightning.
Curriculum Fit: Grades 6 - 8,
PS/Electricity and Magnetism.
Units: Static Charge. Also,
Moving Charge & Magnets.
Concepts: Electrostatic Fields,
electric potential. Coulomb’s
Law demonstration.
Curriculum Fit: Grades 9-12,
PS/Electricity and Magnetism.
Unit: Static Charge.
Warranty and Parts:
We replace all defective or
missing parts free of charge. Additional replacement parts may
be ordered toll-free. We accept
MasterCard, Visa, checks and
School P.O.s. All products warranted to be free from defect for
90 days. Does not apply to accident, misuse or normal wear
and tear. Intended for children 13
years of age and up. This item is
not a toy. It may contain small
parts that can be choking hazards.
Adult supervision is required.
P/N 24-10085
©Science First® is a registered
trademark of Morris & Lee, Inc. All
rights reserved.
SCIENCE FIRST ® | 86475 Gene Lasserre Blvd., Yulee, FL 32097 | 800-875-3214 | | [email protected]